With unprecedented economic inequality and massive overspending on military expansion, America now looks a lot like 476 CE Rome.
What do any of these very local sights have to do with a crumbling empire? They’re signs that some of the same factors that fractured the Roman Empire back in 476 CE. It is about phenomena like gross economic inequality; over-spending on military expansion; political corruption; deep cultural and political fissures.
IMPERIALISM? WHAT’S THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?
What better source for defining imperialism than the Encyclopedia Britannica, first publishedin 1768 in a country that became a great empire of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century?
According to the Encyclopedia, “imperialism” refers to “policies, practices of the state or advocacy for the expansion of power, and especially through the direct occupation of territory or by gaining political and economic control of other regions.” Moreover, imperialism always involves the use of power, whether military or economic or whatever.
In that context, “imperialism” is an accurate description of the trajectory of American history, beginning with the expansion of countries across North America, stealing territory and resources from the Indians and reducing their population. The newly independent United States has grown rapidly since its acquisition of Louisiana from France in 1803. Along with the states of New Mexico, Texas, Auxerre, Missouri, Oklahoma, Colorado and Iowa, Baska, Wyoming, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Montana, and even a small part of what is now Alberta and Sacramento, Canada.
Of course, France did not control most of the territory except the port city of New Orleans and surrounding areas. What Washington has bought is the right to occupy that vast area from the indigenous peoples living there, whether by treaty, transfer or war of conquest and genocide. The original purpose of the agreement was to settle the land for the expansion of the lucrative cotton business and the first economic engine in American history created by slave labor.
Expansion of the United States continued, as in 1819, Florida was purchased from Spain, and in 1845 Texas was forcibly annexed by Mexico (as well as parts of California the following year). Eventually, such expansions escaped the borders of those continents, and the country traveled to the Philippines, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the United States, Samoa, and Marina, the last five territories of the United States today .
AMERICAN DOCTRINES FROM MONROE TO TRUMAN TO (G.W.) BUSH
The economic, military, and political influence of the United States has long outweighed internationally recognized wealth, and other presidents have incorporated a series of “doctrines” to reach the emperor.
Monroe: The first point of the Monroe Doctrine was introduced in 1823 in a speech by President James Monroe of the Union States. He warned European nations that while the United States recognized existing colonial ownership in the United States, it would not allow the creation of any new ones.
President Teddy Roosevelt later added principles to Monroe’s doctrine, giving Washington the right to plead in any country in the United States. “Wrongdoing may be in the United States as well as elsewhere, eventually requiring the intervention of some civilized countries,” he told Congress. He suggested that the United States may be forced “even if there is reluctance in certain cases of wrongdoing or inaction to the use of international police power.”
Truman: Teddy’s cousin, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, publicly proclaimed Monroe doctrine and maintained an attitude toward Latin America known as good neighbor policy, however it did not last long. Not for a long time. In a speech to Congress in 1947, President Harry S. Truman put forward a theory that pursued foreign policy, at least until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. US national security interests demanded the “occupation” of existing communist states and the prevention of the spread of communism everywhere on earth.
It almost led to intervention in the internal struggles of Greece and Turkey, and eventually Washington’s support for dictators and oppression from El Salvador to Indonesia. It justified US-backed coups in places like Iran, Guatemala and Chile. It led the country into a futile war in Korea and a catastrophic defeat in Vietnam.
Bush: You may have thought that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War would give Washington a chance to walk away from resource extraction, and the seemingly endless military and CIA intervention that accompanies it. You may have thought that this country, then called the “last great power”, would eventually consider forming new and unique relationships with other countries on this small planet.
In the post-war break from multilateralism, Bush doctrine emphasized the neoconservative belief that, as the only “unilateral” power in the world, the United States now had the right to unilateral military action. Whoever believes that he is facing external threats.
Although Donald Trump’s foreign policy has occasionally led to isolation in its denial of international treaties, protocols, and organizational responsibilities, it still appears to be a direct descendant of the Bush doctrine. However, it is still Bush who took the United States out of the anti-missile treaty and rejected the Kyoto Protocol against climate change.
BUILDING A COUNTRY FROM THE RUBBLE OF EMPIRE
Suppose we have found a way to transform hunger, the fuel of the empire and the engine of eventual destruction, into new contentment with “enough”? Does the American people look good enough? It is not a country where the wealthy have made billions of dollars, and the country’s military-industrial buildings have been plagued by epidemics as many people have been affected. The empire will soon collapse or later. So this crisis, just at the beginning of Biden and Harris years, is a good time to start thinking about what can be built in its place. What do we want to see from our front window next year?